Honoring local heroes ahead of Veteran’s Day

McKinney is an army veteran who uses Healing Strides as a way to heal through horses and connect with fellow veterans

BOONES MILL, Va. – At Healing Strides of Virginia, Seyward McKinney goes through her routine of getting ready to ride a horse.

“I come here early. I get the horse ready. I’m able to put the saddle on the horse. I lift it above my head, I put it on,” she said.

The army veteran’s journey on horseback started as a wounded warrior. Horses provide hope and healing for many veterans who come to the non-profit in Boones Mill. McKinney is one of those adjusting to life after service.

“I was a staff sergeant in the army. I was stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington. Fort Sam Houston, Texas. I was also stationed in Iraq,” she added.

It’s not just the calming presence of the horses that’s beneficial to veterans, but also being among other service members. The camaraderie and feeling of belonging do wonders for their mental health.

“Having people kind of understand where you’re coming from, and being able to talk not only about horses but outside with other veterans,” McKinney said.

Healing Strides provides many programs and services for a variety of needs. For McKinney, equine therapy has helped her grow.

“Being able to not have that like, I need someone to help me. Is really cool to see how far I’ve come compared to how I used to be.”

Whether it’s on a horse, or with fellow veterans, the goal is to move forward together.


About the Author:

Alyssa Rae grew up in Roanoke and graduated from Virginia Tech. An avid sports fan, she spent her first 8 years in TV as a sports anchor and reporter.